Thursday, September 28, 2006

In one of his novels, I believe Love in the Ruins[1], Walker Percy has his protagonist ruminate upon the fact that he has become solely interested in what he calls “popsies”, young women like cocktail waitresses who are inappropriate to his age and station. I can relate. I have suffered from this nameless disease myself for many years. And of course, me being me, I feel a strong need to name the disease. “Strumpetitis” works for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t – well, almost never – date popsies, nor do I pursue them with the intent to commit sex upon their nubile young bodies. I just enjoy their company. The fact that many of them are gorgeous to die for is incidental. I am not a lecherous old man. Okay, I am, but what I mean to say is that I don’t believe I behave in a creepy lecherous fashion to these young women. I’m a nice guy, and I am respectful to women of any age. Really.

At any rate, some time ago when I was regular at a popular local sports bar (I know, I know) one of the wittier bartenders (Brenda) called herself my “strumpet wrangler”. I would buy some young female stranger a drink and Brenda would launch it at her, reassuring the potential wranglee that I was indeed “a nice guy”, whatever the hell that means. I never expected anything in return from the recipient, though I always felt that a “thank you” was appropriate. In fact, I believed at the time that I was performing something of a public service. This was, of course, when I had money, and probably is part of the reason I don’t now. One of the unexpected consequences of this, as unlikely as it seems, is that I made some very good friends this way.

Lauren Bacall

A notable exception to the “hands off the wastrels” rule occurred when a young woman named Lisa started working as a hostess. She was tall, her long shapely legs reached all the way to the floor, she had world-class breasts and she looked like Lauren Bacall in the movie “The Big Sleep” (but with larger breasts). As if that weren’t enough, she was extremely bright, and her sense of humor was – well, our first conversation was about vaginal secretions. How could I not fall madly in love with her? So I hit on her like a Northern.

Eventually my blandishments proved effective, and Lisa consented to go out with me for a drink. We went to the bar in The Whitney Hotel in Minneapolis, a very romantic venue at the time (and, incidentally, the place where I learned to like Scotch). As we’re sitting there making small talk, she asks me with a wry smile, “How old do you think I am?”

This is never a question a man wants to hear from a woman, particularly a young woman he is totally hot for. At the time I had not yet learned that you never, ever under any circumstances answer that question. There is no right answer, sort of like “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Since I had her pegged at about 27, I said “25.” She just laughed at me and said “19.” Oops.

First of all, the drinking age in Minnesota is 21, so I was guilty of breaking all kinds of laws just sitting there, never mind what my intentions were. Second of all, she was the age of my youngest stepdaughter Cristina (I had been divorced less than a year at the time). As you might imagine, I was nonplussed.

Lisa was enjoying my obvious discomfort tremendously. I groped for a suitable topic of conversation for a nineteen-year-old, and asked “Where did you go to high school?” Yes, Hulles is an idiot. “Heights,” she responded. “I graduated last year.”

Alas, I had not yet clinched the Stupidest Man of the Year award, so I said: “Oh, do you know my stepkids, Isabel and Cristina? They went to Heights as well.” “Sure,” she said. “I was in a couple of classes with Cristina.” After this, it is not too much to say that my words turned to ashes in my mouth. All of a sudden my evil plans for this voluptuous young woman evaporated, and I instantly became, as they say, “just a friend.”

It turned out that we did become pretty good friends. At least, I was Lisa’s go-to guy at 3AM when her car was impounded, which happened more that once. She in her turn was my “date” whenever I had an ex-girlfriend to piss off, which also happened more than once. Sadly, I have lost track of Lisa since she moved out of the Twin Cities. However, sometimes on her birthday I call up her father and leave a message on his answering machine, telling him to wish her a happy birthday for me. While I’ve never spoken to him in person, I have a sneaking suspicion that I may be older than he is.

In spite of this, I still like popsies. Lately it seems that they are all named Amber. This is true enough that I decided that one of these days when I have money I’m going to do an Amber Tour. I (and whoever ever else is game) will travel from bar to restaurant to bar, visiting all of the Ambers that I know in one night. They’re all lovely young women, but it should be a relatively safe adventure for yours truly. Except that one of them looks like Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”….

- Hulles

[1] I ran across the following phrase in an article on Love in the Ruins while I was researching this blog entry: “[T]he novel is a satire of … the medicalization of the human spirit….” Ouch.

1 comment:

Cristina Cordova said...

Jiji. Muy espooky.